Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Begging Forgiveness

You lot will have to cut me some slack for yesterday's inactivity. My boss is coming down on internet usage, so I can only sneak on here during breaks and when she's missing for the next few weeks or so.

That doesn't mean this blog will be inactive though. I'll be trying my best to post each day still, as it keeps my mind fresh. It just means I'll be posting at night if I can't get one in here during the day.

I start work for TTH next week, which is pretty rad. I'm totally excited to being collaborating with those guys and hope I can do my part in bringing plenty of good news from AoC to the community over there. May 20th is just a few months away now, so it won't be long before we can all see just how well Conan's reign is shaping up.

On other gaming fronts, I'm still hopelessly enthralled with Civ IV, as well as my new portable Sim City. Bilburg City, run by the Mayor Bildo, is now well over 100,000 citizens and bringing in a profit of 2.5 grand a month. That's great for a fictional city. Also of note, Assassin's Creed is still getting rocked on the 360 whenever I can sneak some time in... as in when there's nothing my wife wants to watch on cable.

Other than that, it's been a quiet week thus far.

My birthday is tomorrow though, and I'm off work until next Monday so don't lose hope if I don't update much until then. If something comes up during my time off while I'm home doing design work and gaming my arse off, I'll be sure to post it. In the meantime, eat some vegan cake or otherwise for me tomorrow in honor of my 24 years of managing not to die.


Monday, February 25, 2008

4X Games: A New Addiction to an Old Genre

I've been playing a lot of Civilization lately, an endeavor brought on by my inability to really get into Sins of a Solar Empire (great game though it is). I couldn't help while playing it but wish I was playing Civilization instead. So that's just what I did.

Only now I find myself sucked into the vortex that is the "One-More-Turn" phenomenon. I stay up later than I ever intend, I raze Russian settlements, and strive ever-onward for the next technological marvel. Such is the life-blood that fuels me now.

And on top of it all, this rediscovery of the awesomeness that is the Civ series has also led me to other 4X games (eXplore, eXpand, eXperiment, and eXterminate) and other simulation based gaming. Revisiting titles like "The Movies", SimCity on my DS (for work boredom), and even Sourceforge's freeware FreeCol (itself a remade version of Sid Meier's 1994 classic Colonization).

And I don't expect I'll stop there in my renessaince of strategy gaming. On the horizon is the excellent turn-based (and therefore more up my alley) Galactic Civilizations II: The Dread Lords, and I hear that the low-budget Dominions III from a couple years back is quite good too.

Oh yes, I am in gaming Nirvana lately... though I still wish these massive worlds I am currently inhabiting were of the online kind. I wonder if someone will ever make a world or universe 4X game that can truly be made into an MMO? Isn't Travian something like this? Inquiring Bildos would like to know.

Cheers folks.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Starbreeze Resurrecting Old EA Franchise

An announcement went out today that EA has tapped the developer Starbreeze Studios to revitalize an old franchise of theirs, with development currently under the name Project RedLime.

This really could be any number of franchises we haven't seen hide nor hair of for years... let's go over a list of the possibilities.

  • Archon - But how many still really remeber this game today? I don't think it's going to be a franchise that no one today knows about outside of the hardcore PC enthusiasts, or rather one that only necessitated 1 sequel. I mean, this is EA we're talking about.

  • The Bard's Tale - Not likely as this was just re-attempted a year or two ago. But one never knows. I know I wouldn't mind a real re-launch of this one

  • Skate or Die! - Doubtful too as EA just launched the "skate." brand this year.

  • Populous - Again doubtful as EA is about to launch another certain God game this year... Spore. Don't think they'd compete against themselves.

  • Desert Strike - Maybe? War games are in right now, and a helicopter shooter might go over well. Still, I hope not. Just because I wouldn't care.

  • Dungeon Keeper - Maybe? I never really played the DK games, but I know many loved the titles, and there's a big push for user-made content these days, as well as action-RPGs, so who knows.


    The Ultima Series - Garriott and crew do not own this license... can you believe that? EA does. And I think they may be gearing up to bring a single-player RPG to the masses with Starbreeze. Not UO2 mind you, as they're already pressing hard with Warhammer and wouldn't want to steal from the same userbase with a sequel to UO. But a direct competitor to the open-world RPG reigning champ that is 2K and Bethesda's Elder Scrolls Series might be right up their alley.

    Why do I think this? Aside from wishful thinking, the guys at Starbreeze said this in their portion of the press release and it just sort of clicked into my head that Ultima was the one: "We’re already deep in development on Project RedLime and the team at EA is giving us the time we need to perfect our vision. We’re excited to bring a new perspective and gameplay innovation to this beloved fiction."

    I can't really think of any other "beloved fiction" that EA has its hands on, except maybe James Bond, but isn't a new game for that already being made? Did the series ever go away and seem in need of a revival? It's been running on all cylinders since Goldeneye (even if some have sucked). EA also called it "reinventing one of their most acclaimed franchises". Hence why Ultima seems like exactly the direction they'll head. Hell, it would be where I'd go.

    Starbreeze has proven with Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay that they can do the adventure-action game really well, and with The Darkness that they can tell a story and do an FPS well. I wouldn't be surprised if they could pull off a deeply compelling RPG too. They've been one of my favorite independent developers to watch grow over the past few years.

    There are some major trends in gaming these days. Open worlds. Lots of customization. Dark and deep thematic material. Action-based gameplay. All of these things have been a part of the Ultima series for years... and yet since 1997 it hasn't really seen a new game to take it that "one step beyond." UO, as great as it once was, is now but a dated shell of its former glory. Ultima X just might finally be coming down the pipe.

    Then again, it could simply end up being Road Rash and I'll go back to my daydreaming.

    It'll be interesting to see this one unfold over the next few months as more details are announced. I'm crossing my fingers for the Avatar to make a return, even with out RG behind it. In fact, it may be served better to have some fresh hands on the series.



    EDIT: Oh, and expect Ultima X to be on the Xbox and PS3, as well as the PC.

    PS - Heather, I swear I'll get to that meme soon. :)

    Champions Online Info from GI

    The same day Cryptic officially announces Champions Online, I get the latest issue of Game Informer which just so happens to have the 5 or 6 page spread on the game which first broke the story as people started receiving their copies a few days back.

    Marvel Universe? Cancelled, leaving Cryptic entirely to their own devices right? And thank Jeebus for that, because if they live up to the promises in this article, CO will be just the kind of MMO experience I want on my Xbox 360 (it's coming out for the PC and 360 simultaneously and will be cross-platform sometime in early-mid 2009).

    Let's go over a few of the touted features from the GI article (and also the official site). These are in no particular order and may have lots of typos in them, so bear with me.

  • The Champions table-top RPG game is now owned by Cryptic, giving them the power to fuly utilize the license, and they will be working with Hero Games on combining the RPG with the MMO and thus the story you see in the game will directly effect the RPG and vise versa.

  • Every character has access to EVERY power - your class simply determines how much it will cost to train a specific ability. I assume this means a tanking oriented class can be a healer if he wants, but at the cost of his more tanking focused abilities.

  • At character creation, you will also create your character's arch-nemesis who will follow you throughout your career as a hero. There will be game-wide baddies to fight, just like in CoH, but this aspect makes it so each player has his or her own storyline to follow, custom-tailored by the player. Your hero is a fire-blowing ranged attacker? Maybe your Arch-Nemesis is a master of water or ice-based attacks. "Players don't just customize their look, they customize their gameplay," says Emmert.

  • Action is the name of the game. Say goodbye to click it and forget it. More akin to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance than World of Warcraft, the action CO will be centered around real-time punches, kicks, jumping, and special skills. Face buttons on the 360 remote control attacks, whereas the right bumper is used to block, and the left one is used as a shift-key of sorts, brining up more special attacks on the face buttons. The idea is to maintain a focus on action and visceral battles, while also making sure that strategy and ability management comes into play via enemy AI and enemy abilities. Don't expect enemies to be fodder, in other words. They'll come packing their own brand of heat.

  • Loot will also play a role in CO. Not as big as in games like WoW, but obviously a far larger role than what was and has been seen in CoH. There will be several body slots to equip gear into, and if you don't like the way something looks you'll be able to toggle it on or off, or perhaps even customize it to fit into your hero's design scheme.

  • Whereas CoH took place in one large, but still small in MMO-terms city CO will have an entire world to traverse. The urban setting will be a mainstay of course, but so will sprawling underground ruins, underwater lairs, jungles, a dinosaur-monster infested island, military bases, and even the moon. All the areas from the Champions RPG will be available for Cryptic to pull from, and now with the license in their hads... more will be created.

  • Soloability will be key. And as Emmert states in the GI article, "I think we're kind of passed the point of forced teaming." Most of the game will be soloable, along the lines of WoW, but don't expect it to be like Auto Assault or Tabula Rasa and be a game where grouping becomes an after-thought. Super-Groups (guilds) will be in play of course, and there will be content across all levels for the solo-artist as well as for groups of up to 5. No "raids" were mentioned in the article. Though Jack Emmert made sure to say they have a desire to make sure there's plenty of content even at the level cap for solo folks, group players, and even PvP fans.

  • Initially, "Villains" won't be playable. They're focusing on the heroes first, and bringing the Villains in later. But unlike CoH the Villains won't be separated from the Heroes artificially when they make it in. Like WoW or EQ2, everyone will share (and fight over) the earth. Though I assume PvP will be consentual still as is the going trend. Until Villains get added, an "Underground Arena" system will be in place for competitive PvP.

  • At character creation you'll also pick whether or not you'll have a secret identity or be a public face. Which one you chose will fundamentally alter the course of your career. So aside from the many different ways you'll find to build your character, expect there to be reason enough to level 2 heroes from this aspect alone.

  • Missions will show up in persistent zones where everyone can access them, but the idea is to still use instancing... just not to the extent CoH did. Emmert and crew are fans of the practice, and instances will play a heavy role in a lot of the team-oriented content.

  • Basic attacks (punches, kicks, etc) are used to build up your power pool, which is then unleashed for special attacks. Balancing the amount of power you have and use will be where the skill relies in combat. I assume it'll be a good idea to have a bevy of lighter power-cost attacks on hand and not overdo it with too many power-heavy skills.

  • Death will have a light penalty as they expect it could happen a lot. Just respawn at a local checkpoint and try it again.

  • If you somehow manage to kill off or lock up your created Arch-Nemesis for good, you'll have the option of creating a new one... or not. Cryptic wants to make sure that the player is always in control of their own destiny. So while there will be a main story going on in the game like there was in CoH, the player will always have control of how their character looks, feels, plays, and even progresses. You should never feel shoe-horned into any specific role even if there is a class-system in place.

  • When creating your hero, you'll be able to not only customize his look, but his actual posture and movements too. If you have a robotic hero, you can make him move like a robot, or make a beast-man run on all fours, or make a mystical hero who can float around with some unknown power. The idea is to take char-gen in CO 10 steps further than in CoH.

  • Story will play a big part in the game. Cutscenes galore with plenty of voice-over will be all over the place during missions. Hopefully they can be skipped... because with alt-itis this could get old.

  • The game's in playable form already, and Cryptic is aiming for an early 2009 release at this point. According to Game Informer, the main bulk of their work from here on out will be adding content and finalizing the classes, balancing them for PvE and PvP, and then polish, polish, polish. Maybe early 2009 really can happen? Is it beta-time yet?

  • That's the bulk of what features have been announced, but I'm sure there's plenty more to learn. Like what Champions and Dark Champions from the actual RPG will be in it, what classes are going to be available, what guild features will be in, how heavily will instancing really be used, etc. But basically... what all this stuff says to me is, "Hi there, Bill. We're Cryptic. We hope you're prepared to lose your life in 2009 when our new game ships. Because this is everything we wish CoH could have been, but wasn't. Oh, and it's going to be on your lovely Xbox too. Have fun on the couch instead of at the desk - you know you want to. Start saying goodbye to your family now."

    Sign me up. Even if they only deliver on the character creation aspect and the action-skewed gameplay and nothing else... this is a game I'll be lost in for months come next year. Time to go purge it from my head so I can focus on other things. 2009 is a ways away and I'm already wishing 2008 was over. That's not healthy. I mean, imagine if they pull of combining that kind of character depth with that kind of action-game and accessibility... for a guy who loves MMOs but is running out of free time to play them as life rolls on, it would be a dream come true. AND IT'S COMIC BOOK THEMED, NO LESS! Yes CoH did it first, we all know that. But this may end up being the game Jack and team had in mind when they first set out to make CoH years ago.

    Damn the hype machine. I don't like being this eager. It hurts my brain.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2008 and Cryptic Sheds Some Light...

    No blog post really today, just some quickies because I very well may need THIS website soon.

    Also worthy of note today, Cryptic has opened the site for its new Superhero MMO (PC and Xbox 360) at

    Head there to join the forums, get the newsletter, check out some early screens, concept art, background story, and even a nicely detailed feature list. Chalk this one up to Bildo's "List of Most Wanted" games. 2009 seems like an awful long way away though... and we all know it'll see a delay like everything else these days.

    Still, it's worth getting excited about.

    Cheers folks.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Following the Creed of the Assassin

    In my mailbox Saturday was a copy of Assassin's Creed, and I was expecting not to like it before I even played it. While I had read great reviews, a few friends had reported to me that it was over-hyped and ultimately not that good. I think the combination of great mixed with bad actually helped Ubisoft's latest ambition in my case. For what I've found in Assassin's Creed thus far is a game wholly its own and an increasingly enjoyable experience to boot.

    I know that just about anyone who really cares has already played it, but I still don't want to spoil the story so let me preface this little post with a...

    !!SPOILER WARNING!! Read no further if you don't want the story spoiled.

    None of the promotional materials for AssCreed really mentioned the fact that the player would actually be a modern-day bartender who is held captive by scientists in order to use this genetic memory machine called an Animus and help said scientists obtain "something" they require which will help them "bring peace to the world".

    Within the first half-hour of the game, you're affronted with a surprisingly unique science-fiction plot, that involves using the Animus to hijack into your ancestor's memories... who just happened to be an assassin named Altair (Al-thai-eer) during the time of the Crusades. So throughout the game, you wind up following two presumably linked storylines: one for the bartender who is being held captive (though not ill-treated) and one for the historical assassin. In premise, it's rather awesome though whether or not the great early writing pays off is yet to be seen by this gamer. I'll let you lot know when I wrap up the game.

    The presentation, all the game's menus and HUD activity, are supposed to be the interface of the "Animus" and it comes together really nicely. When the game loads a new area, it offers you a chance to run around a misty, pixelated, blue space as Altair which is intended to represent your ancenstor's memory being loaded into the Animus. It's very stylish, and very well done.

    Little electronic touches like this are spattered throughout the game, like when Altair takes too much damage and the image of his memory starts to flicker and distort. When you target an enemy the character is distinguished by showing little code-like white text flickering over them and about them. And perhaps the most cool aspect of the interface is how during cutscenes the screen with glitch, signaling you to press any button on the controller in order to view the scene from a more dynamic vantage point. Something possible only with the help of the Animus.

    There is some repetition in the actual gameplay. You do a lot of citizen rescuing, you spend a lot of time scouring the city for viewpoints that will uncover data on your map for use, and before each assassination you must collect data on your target by doing things like eavesdropping or pickpocketing. The only annoying aspect of having to do these tasks is that pickpocketing is not done entirely well. You first watch the target talk to a colleague, then follow him when they part ways. And I mean you obviously follow him to the point where anyone would be capable of sensing it, no matter how inept they are.

    You've got swords, armguards, a glowing white cloak, and you're just waltzing behind this guy until you can get close enough to grab what's in his pouch. And when you do, he turns and sees you, looks pissed that he's been pickpocketed and then continues walking. It's just hard to believe compared to the other aspects, even hiding in hay to get away from guards. There are other unbelievable aspects to the game, but they're all far easier to overlook when compared to how awkward pickpocketing is. Still, it's a small annoyance in what is otherwise a very fun game. You only have to do it once or twice per assassination, and it takes very little time, so no biggie.

    I'm about 4 or 5 hours in, and 3 kills down. The story's really revving up, and I honestly can't wait to see what happens. One of the friends who liked it, but had his complaints says he lost steam around 5 kills in, so we'll see if the same fate befalls me. I tend to be a lot more patient with games, so I expect to finish it within the next couple weeks tops.

    If you have yet to check the game out, I'd definitely recommend at least renting it. It's certainly going to be one of the more interesting franchises to watch over the next few years. I'll be picking up the sequel in one form or another... I'm almost certain of it.

    Friday, February 15, 2008

    Some New Friends

    Just wanted to make one more post before the long weekend (we Guvmint employees get Monday off), and mention that I added some new folks to the blogroll.

  • Zen of Design

  • The Battered Shield

  • Rao World

  • The Intent of Content

  • MMO Gamers

  • I try to keep up on these things, and link who links me or interests me. But if I ever seem to be lagging in linking you, just shoot me a comment or an e-mail and I'll get you on the roll.

    Have a good weekend folks.

    My Xbox Lies About Me...

    My Xbox likes to forget things it seems. It claims that I played Godfather and then nothing else, nothing at all. What a lying prick.

    I shut down Godfather when Fable was downloading, played a bunch of Arcade Game demos, and then rounded out the night with Fable when it was done downloading.

    I hate it when my gaming system lies about me.

    Revisiting Fable

    Valentine's Day is never that big of a deal for my wife and I. Her birthday is today, so it usually gets mostly overlooked in favor of her gaining a year of life on me for a couple of weeks. Still, I did my duty assigned by greeting card companies, and bought her flowers and chocolates to be delivered to her desk at work. They nearly didn't make it, but after catching the delivery van en route and telling the person that she needed to head to Building 3 and not Building 1 of the complex, all was well.

    When we got home, my wife had to make something delicious for a coworker's going away party, so I got all nestled in on the couch and started up the Xbox 360. 2000 Microsoft Points and about an hour's worth of downloading later, I was playing the original Xbox's best game (in my book), Fable.

    Don't ask me why I downloaded it. I have the Lost Chapters version for the PC already, and the Xbox Originals version is missing the expansion content, so it was really like spending money on PART of something I already had. But I can say, after playing it, that I'm glad I did so. It's far more fun on the console and 42" TV than on the mouse and keyboard and 19" monitor.

    I know that the title broke a lot of hearts when it came out 3 years ago and was missing some features that were promised, but I'm one of the many who was able to forget about the features that got cut because what did get released really was an amazing game.

    It's unlike just about any other action-RPG, and I can't help but get a sense of satisfaction from playing in Albion and doing various good (or bad) deeds. I love that my character gets portly when I eat lots of red meat. I love that he gets thin from running about a lot. I love that he gets scars from particularly nasty fights, and white hair from being such a goody-two-shoes. I love that people cheer me on when they see me, only to choke on the foul air I leave behind with a well-placed fart. I love that I can have more wives than I can count, and husbands even if my character feels like going Freddie Mercury on me.

    In all, while the graphics have aged and the presentation (cutscenes and whatnot) is not on par with today's near cinematic quality titles... Fable's still one of the most fun games out there. I could have just bought the Xbox disc copy of The Lost Chapters... but I really don't mind. I'd spend another 20 bucks for it down the road if I need to, because the game's always fun. It's one of few titles I can replay over and over again and not be bored.

    If you've never tried it out, I highly recommend it. It's got its share of shortcomings, the worst of which to me is the boxed in feel of the game world, but by and large it's a damned good time.

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    MMOs Are On the Move

    First, let me say thank you to all the folks who responded yesterday. For now, I think you've helped me decide to stick with playing some offline games for a while as I wait for Conan and Warhammer. There are so many I've missed, it's a good time to play catch up. Assassin's Creed is making its way to my mailbox as I type this via Gamefly. And I've barely touched Sins of a Solar Empire, and that's a sin in and of itself.

    So thank you, folks. You kept me sane in a brief lapse of self-control.

    Now onto the topic at hand. There's an article over at Next-Gen about how MMOs are making their way slowly and surely to the console space. I mean, look at your Xbox or more specifically your PS3 and tell me it's not basically a PC minus Windows (though PS3s can run Linux I hear).

    What will no doubt worry the majority of traditional MMO players is that, as Next-Gen points out, console MMOs will likely be decidedly simpler than their PC grandpappies. Now, I don't think it's a secret to anyone who reads my blog regularly that I'm in favor of MMOs spreading their wings onto the consoles, but I also hope sincerely that they continue to be made for the PC... and more importantly that they keep their depth and scope.

    However, I expect this won't be the case. The MMO as we're used to it, even with the oft-chastised WoW "Amusement Park", is far too complex for most business heads to comprehend the reason WHY they should spend upwards of 50 million dollars on a project that MIGHT make a profit EVENTUALLY, when they can spend 5-10 million on a much smaller project with less development time and almost guarantee a profit with such a budget.

    Microsoft's cancelling of Marvel Universe may be very historically "Microsoftian", but it also is likely a trend we should get used to. Big budget, epic MMOs might be stalling. Very few will likely be made in the shadow of Blizzard's big gun, because investors just won't see it as viable. Instead I expect we'll see lower-budget, more focused IP MMOs sprout up. RMT? Maybe not. But games that can make a profit on box/download sales alone might be more likely.

    Am I saying that with Warammer and Conan I think the big major MMO releases will stop? No... I just think we'll see fewer of them, and when a "big" epic game comes out its featureset will likely be very focused so that the developers can push that buzzword "polish" around and actually accomplish it.

    Maybe I'm wrong, in fact I'd love to be. I have no doubt that MMOs are coming to consoles, and I have very little doubt that they'll do well. But I really hope that the shift doesn't mean that the epic worlds we're used to get left behind. Or, perhaps that's what is needed. Maybe, with the MMO's move into 3-D space we need a back to basics approach for a little while. Maybe that would help stifle the flow of crap that's been coming out lately.

    Sorry to ramble, but that's what I do.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    Where to go...

    Right. So, I find myself craving an MMO, as I've said before in the past week or two. And yet, LotRO didn't pan out. I just can't get into it again.

    So where to find the food for this hunger? I've been thinking about a few games and going back to them, and maybe some of the rest of you can offer advice on this quandary.

  • Tabula Rasa. It seems like a good idea on the surface. I only stopped playing because I got my 360 and was sidetracked. I only made it to level 23. And the action is both fast-paced and frenetic. Two things that strike my fancy lately. But with every board post I read on multiple TR forums I see a couple of scary complaints. That the game's still quite light on the content in the 40s and especially a level 50, and that with the most recent patch solo-ing really took a downturn due to increased mob difficulty and loot was adjusted to be less plentiful increasing this factor. I'm not sure TR sounds like a good idea, even for the short-term use I need it for.

  • City of Heroes. This one strikes me, mainly because I know it's built from the ground up to be playable in short bursts, they're increasing the leveling speed really soon, and I've only ever been as high as level 15. But the downsides are that the reason I only got to 15 was that the game was way too obviously grindy for my tastes, and that leveling took a horridly long time... how much is the new speed really increasing the leveling pace? I want to make progression, not stagnate.

  • Everquest 2. This game is one I've tried over a half-dozen times to fall in love with. But what happens is that like any normal dating scenario, for the first couple weeks I'm ready to profess my love but by the 3rd or 4th week I'm bored as the game loses some serious focus in the 20-50 area where there's still a lot of the old boring EQ2 present. I'm not sure I can excited about it anymore.

  • Star Wars Galaxies. I think about this one from time to time... then I remember the last time I played it. No more needs to be said. It's a mess, and a what a shame that it is.

  • Pirates of the Burning Sea. I never picked this up, because I was originally going to be working on AoC by early February. Now that the date of my starting has been pushed back to March, I could have a solid couple weeks of PotBS before I had to lose focus. And with PotBS, that's just not long enough. I'm afraid this one will have to wait until I have a good chunk of time to devote. Plus I'd rathr not spend the 50 bones right now.

  • These are the games I've been deliberating over. EVE's not my style. WoW's done until an expansion comes for me, at the very least. FFXI I loathe. LotRO didn't pan out. I mean... what else is there? Please don't say one of the Korean MMOs. Like Darren, I can't stand them.

    I'm lost in a sea of nothing. Something needs to turn up and quick, because this Cold Turkey isn't working out.

    All of this worrying could be avoided if Mythic treated me like Kevin or Hudson and didn't know I was a blogger. Or if Funcom had pity on me and sent me a nice gift. Or if Spellborn sent me a certain e-mail... sigh.

    EDIT: Just read at VN that the % increase of XP in CoH is actually pretty darned good, with one person reporting that he went from 14-20 in one few hour session in a group. Being that I play solo, I'd probably have been able to get from 14 to 16 or so I'm guessing... which is much faster than it used to be. Could CoH be the temp game I'm looking for?

    Anyone who plays the game have any more info on the XP increase that went in this week? HAS it gone in this week, or is the above mentioned person taking about a test server client?

    I need help.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Age of Conan: State of the Game Address

    Gaute Godager put out a memo to the community today. Basically it covers how they're coming along and also detailing the cuts they've had to make to the game. Basically it boils down to the usual "We're nearly there, just polishing and getting everything working", plus he lets loose with his reasoning behind why some features are cut from the final release.

    Namely: why we're down to 12 from 14 classes (4 weren't strong on their own, so they merged them into 2), why forced player formations are out (not fun to lose control of your character if you're stuck in the formation), and why spell-weaving ended up being too complex to keep (too much reliance on spell-weaving equalled bad situations for party-play).

    I can't say this sways me either way towards faith or losing faith, but rather that it reaffirms something I've been thinking about MMOs for a while: Focus on a select group of features and fine-tune them. Don't try to do too much. Gaute and crew know this as well as anyone it seems.

    Now if only I could get that spot in General Beta...

    Here's a link to his full update for those interested. Some interesting stuff aside from what I've mentioned.

    Gaute Opens his Trap and Lets Loose a Fury of Info

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Official: Marvel Universe Canned

    Via Next-Gen:
    Following months of rumors, Microsoft Game Studios has finally confirmed that the Marvel-licensed MMO has been cancelled.
    “I’ll confirm. Marvel and we have agreed to end development on the MMO,” Microsoft Game Studios VP Shane Kim told MTV Multiplayer at last week’s DICE Summit in Las Vegas.

    “It was an amicable decision…. It’s just something that we felt that, for us and for them, it would be better if we ended development. Which is disappointing, because that had a lot of promise. But sometimes you have to make these decisions.”

    Rumors that Marvel Universe had been canned first emerged on 1Up. Shortly after, an industry insider told Next-Gen that plans to release the Marvel superhero-themed MMO had been terminated.

    Microsoft had been strangely evasive about the fate of the MMO until now. The rumors originated in November 2007, and in the weeks following, the software maker insisted either that the game was still in development or wouldn't comment at all.

    Kim was hesitant to tell Multiplayer’s Stephen Totilo that something “went wrong” with the development of the game. But Kim did say that Microsoft began development of Marvel Universe with plans to make it a subscription-based MMO. Microsoft eventually found the venture too risky.

    “…If you really look at the data there’s basically one [MMO] that’s successful and everything else wouldn’t meet our level or definition of commercial success,” he said. “And then you have to look [and say]: ‘Can we change the business model for that? Is that really viable given how far we are in development? And so forth. Does Marvel want to do that?’ There’s a whole bunch of factors [in canceling the game].”
    So then, that means:

  • Cryptic is not working on Marvel Universe.

  • They could be working on Star Trek Online.

  • Microsoft sees the idea of a traditional MMO not financially intelligent because of WoW (though they don't say that directly).

  • And of course, it means that NCsoft feels safe with CoH.

  • But what about DC Universe? Sony has that license I believe... and we all know they're not afraid of Blizzard. Will it see the light of day? Will anyone care? Also, if not Star Trek as rumored, what is Cryptic working on?

    What a bummer, folks. One future major MMO down. Which one will be next? Spellborn? Hero's Journey? Is the bubble bursting on the traditional MMO? Is the genre going to be flooded with budget titles in fear of going up against WoW?

    What a weird path we're on.

    Weekend Boredom and Whatnot

    Not a very exciting weekend for yours truly. I tried as hard as I could to get back into LotRO, but I'm just not feeling it. I don't want to do the starting all over thing there, as I know I'll be leaving the game in a month or two. Yet, I desperately want to play an MMO lately... I just can't figure out which one. I've even been thinking about SWG *shudder*. I think what will end up happening is a venture back to CoH/V or Tabula Rasa.

    CoH has a much sped up leveling rate going in from what I understand, making "The Grind" less tedious. A wise move for a game that wants to hold onto its current base of players who have done the same content for 3+ years, and at the same time attract new players to the IP. And TR is just plain fun, and not as serious as your average MMO, making it easy to hop in and play for a month or two at a time and not feel pressured to accomplish anything. I need that style of play while I wait for Conan and WAR to launch this summer. I don't need something that's going to require I invest a year or more to feel accomplished.

    One thing of note this weekend is that I got to play an unnamed game for a bit. I can't tell you which. I can't even really say anything about how it played. But I will say that it surprised me. A lot. How did it surprise me? Well, I'll tell you how when I'm able. It likely won't be too long before I can say more about it.

    More later... if something worth rambling about pops up.

    Friday, February 8, 2008

    Rebelution Studios and WAR Beta Ramping Up

    Just two little quick notes for this morning.

    Last night I purchased some web hosting and put up an "Under Construction" page for my forthcoming Web Design home page Rebelution Studios. That page is not really indicative of final design as there's still a lot of work for me to do, but it's much nicer than a default or plain placeholder. I'll be making an announcement for sure when the full site is up and running.

    I do redesign blogs, FYI. :)

    Also, it seems the Warhammer beta invites are flowing like water now. A little later than expected for the swell of new people, but it's a good sign that the game's on track again for it's Q2 release. My only question is... when will us "press" bloggers get in? Poor Keen is about to /wrists over the wait.

    That's it for now. Just wanted to share my baby-step towards my design business being a reality, and the notion that Warhammer invites are going out by the bunch. I'd check your e-mail accounts and the beta center if you haven't already.

    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    Anyone Want to Buy?

    I could use this money, after all.

    My blog is worth $21,452.52.
    How much is your blog worth?

    Thanks to Wilhelm and Oakstout for pointing this one out.

    LotRO: Jobildo the Burglar Is Born and Other Stuff

    I did start LotRO last night, finally. Made a human burglar (I can't stand looking at the hobbits in LotRO) and began my ascent through the levels again. I stopped at 2. I just wasn't in the mood last night to power through the beginning Archet area again. Have to save that for the weekend.

    I'm not really sure how long I'll last in this attempt, as I already feel the tedium of leveling up again. I don't want to restart my account, but it would be easier to get back into the game considering I have several characters in their teens and one in his late 30s.

    I think I'll stick with my father in law's lifetime account for as long as I can, and if I get bored before I find any betas to be a part of, I'll head back to Tabula Rasa even though it'll cost me a sub that I was trying to avoid for the time being. I was hoping to avoid paying a subscription until Conan came out in May... but I'm not sure my feeble will can last that long.

    I ended up last night going to the store for some necessities and of course The Godfather for the Xbox at Gamestop. For 15 bucks it was hard to beat, and I was dying to be rid of Saints Row so I traded it in. The game's tone and setting really wore on me. I'm much more of a Capo than a Thug.

    I've already played Godfather on the Wii for about 10-15 hours, and the two versions are essentially the same. But for whatever reason I got rid of the Wii version and have lately been finding myself aching for some La Cosa Nostra action. Until Mafia 2 comes out later this year, the Godfather is the closest I'll get. And besides... it's got to be one of the best films I've ever seen, and playing through it on an alternate story path is pretty damn fun even if its a bit hokey. At least its humor is actually humorous as opposed to Saints Row, and the gunplay and action in general are far superior. It's even got a little bit of an RPG blended in for good measure.

    Now here's the kicker, for all the Trash Talking(tm) I've done about Saints Row, I'm still watching the development of the sequel due out this year. The devs have stated the tone's going to be much more serious, and that the combat is being fine-tuned. It'll probably still pale in comparison to GTA IV which is also coming out this year, but I'm anxious to see how SR2 improves on the hard-to-overlook shoddy aspects I found in the original. I won't be buying it on release, but Gamefly will come in handy.

    That's it for now, sorry for the broad range of this ramble. More later if I become either a.) bored or b.) inspired.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2008

    Mass Effect: New Content March 10th

    I just saw over on Next-Gen that BioWare is readying it's first bit of DLC for Mass Effect, due to hit on March 10th. Here's the write-up, directly from Next-Gen:
    For $5 (or 400 Microsoft points) gamers itching for a new space-faring RPG adventure will be able to download Bring Down the Sky on March 10 via Xbox Live Marketplace. The content will continue the story of Commander Shepard and his crew.

    BioWare claims that the new content will take gamers around 90 minutes to complete. Bring Down the Sky will also include a new Achievement and 50 Gamescore points.

    BioWare explained the premise of the content pack in a press release: "...A new uncharted world that introduces the notorious and feared alien race of the Batarians (pictured). A Batarian extremist group has hijacked a mobile asteroid station in the Asgard system, setting it on a collision course with the nearby colony world of Terra Nova. Only Commander Shepard can save the millions of innocent civilians before the asteroid completes its deadly descent."
    As you have likely already guessed, my five dollars is as good as theirs. With all the faults of the game's long elevator times, it's funky Mako handling, and texture bugs... it was still easily the most fun I've had in a game in years. I also can't wait to see the new alien race in action. The picture to the left is a glimpse at what they look like.

    In all, the more I get to explore this galaxy, the better. This is one of the 1st games since Zelda 64 that I feel like keeping forever. Hurry up, March 10th.

    Circle-Jerking: The WAR PvP Video

    Cameron started it. As did that one dude at the Game/Life blog whose name I cannot for the life of me remember (and I'm too lazy to hunt down right now). Then Scott of Dungeon Run added some more fuel, which Heartless tried to douse with his own opposing take on the whole thing.

    I love these topics. I love how they spider their way around the Metropoblog that we all congregate in. It really is a fantastic sight to behold. But why am I writing this, you ask? Well... I'd like to join in on the fun, of course. I usually try to find something of my own to write about, but when you're not really playing any games that are blogging material it becomes hard to find a topic of your own. So, I think it's time I coattail it a bit myself. There's plenty to talk about on this one anyway.

    The topic in question is of course the most recent video from EA Mythic's monthly Warhammer Newsletter. As the host of the video, Paul Barnett says, it shouldn't be taken as indicative of the way PvP will actually play out in WAR, but rather it's just something they threw together for the newsletter. I get that.

    I also get that Warhammer came long before World of Warcraft. In fact, it's long been the buzz that Blizzard was originally using the Warhammer universe for Warcraft, only to lose the rights to the IP and so they went on with Orcs and Humans by themselves. It's known by most geeks like us that Warcraft is ripped from Warhammer, or based on it at least.

    That doesn't change the fact that this video presents a game that appears in its 1 minute of "Glory" to be very reminiscent of WoW. I know, I know... that's only smart business on EA Mythic's part. As much as I want something new and exciting (please, oh please, let AoC be that), there's no denying that sticking to established trends and mechanics works in the games industry. Through iteration and evolution we see improvements, and hardly if ever through sheer re-working of the medium.

    But I think it's safe to say that those of us looking forward to Warhammer could have done without this "One Minute of Glory" and instead would have been better served by some of the more dynamic PvP functions we've been told about and shown in trade show demos. I want to see the Orcapault. I want to see the trolls hurling rocks on the players from cliffs.

    I know that EA Mythic has plenty to work on without worrying about how their monthly snippets of video are received. But really, it's the video that gives us the best look at a game before we finally get our own hands on it. Warcraft argument aside, this little teaser did nothing to make me want to play the game. Because it was so very similar to everything else on the market. It would have been better to leave it out entirely and instead just make sure people check out that 30 minute behemoth of a podcast.

    THAT is where the goods are. Forget about this piddly video. It shows us nothing other than what we've all known these many months. Warhammer ON THE SURFACE is borrowing a lot from WoW, DAoC, EQ, and any other Fantasy MMO you can name. Big surprise.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2008

    Breaking the NDA: Just Say No

    I recently came across a forum post by a beta tester for a certain game that basically tore said game a new a-hole. I won't say which game, and I won't say where, because I don't need to add fuel to the fire. But I will say this.

    Great job, buddy. You've lost the respect of an entire game company, many fellow gamers, and in general the people in and surrounding the hobby that made you want to be a volunteer tester in the first place. You've taken the trust of a company that expected you to know betas are where play is not really "fun", and crammed it up their asses. You've gained a few moments of internet fame, based on frustrations with a beta test for a game that's not due out for months.

    I salute you. Well done.


    I mean seriously, people. It's no secret that I'm a Champion of the Virtues of NDAs here at my blog. I've made posts regarding the selling of keys and how I don't care if it seems "tattling" of me to turn these turds in. I know it's not the end of the world. I know it's not even really a serious offense. But as a gamer who loves partaking in these public closed betas, I hate it when the bad ones come out and make it that much harder for us real testers to be trusted.

    *tsk tsk*

    Do the beta tester's words have merit? I have no clue. It's very likely grounded in truth, but I have a feeling there's quite a bit of extremism in the words of a man who took the time to cross-post a several hundred/thousand word document about his problems with the beta. A lot of it could be hyperbole. But that's not the point. The game could really be a complete turd, and it wouldn't change what this tester did. It's taint that sullies the credibility of gamers when someone does this... one bad apple can spoil the bunch, you know?

    Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

    Monday, February 4, 2008

    No Beta For Joo!

    At the suggestion of Tipa, I decided to e-mail James Nichols and inquire as to whether or not bloggers are considered eligible for the beta, or if we're considered press and therefore must wait until press-sites are allowed in before we too are given access.

    Turns out, we're considered press and therefore no bloggers (that they keep an eye on) will be given entry to the beta until the NDA is lightened a bit and the press sites start getting in too.

    So that answers that. No use hankering for some time in WAR for the next few months at least. But Conan's another story. I hope I get some time with that title before it launches in May, and something tells me I will.

    Thanks to James Nichols, the CM of WAR, for being so swift to answer my question and so direct to boot. Keep up the good work out there, mate.

    Once More Into Frustration

    Maybe it's because I like angering myself. Maybe it's because I want to give my wife time with the shiny new cable TV. Maybe it's because neither WAR or AoC have been gracious enough to send my beta invites. Maybe it's because I'm addicted to MMOs. Whatever the reason, I've decided to give LotRO another try.

    I didn't want to spend my 15 bucks a month to do it though, as I don't want to risk wasting said cash. My father in law was gracious enough to let me use his lifetime LotRO account... that he never uses anyway. I hope it doesn't keep him up nights.

    Anyway, it took almost all afternoon Sunday to patch up, and by the time it was ready I had lost interest and instead enjoyed watching the Giants tear down the hopes and dreams of perfection that New England was vainly clinging to. So the hobbitses will have to wait until sometime this week.

    The downside of being on my FIL's account is that I'll have to start from scratch, but I suppose that could be a boon too. Fresh beginnings might be a better idea than ramming my head against the wall of no solo content in the high 30s. It's likely a temporary thing, or so I hope. I keep praying to Jeebus for an invite to either Conan or Warhammer... but so far that's been useless. Plus, when my wife took over the couch with HGTV's programming the other day I realized I needed more than my Xbox for gaming goodness.

    So look for more on Middle-earth later this week.

    Cheers, peoples.

    Friday, February 1, 2008

    Gabe and Tycho Do It Again

    Penny-Arcade is one of those webcomics that I just can't get enough of. They're absurd, juvenile, and so perfectly appropriate at the same time that I just can't stop reading them.

    Take this lampoon of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed's use of the Euphoria Engine, which makes NPCs react accordingly to situations, including grabbing onto each other when their lives are in danger.

    I salute you, Gabe and Tycho. You always get a chuckle out of me.

    Gimme Action

    I hope Tobold doesn't mind me pulling material from him, but I'm sure I'm not the first. The epic blogger recently created a list of predictions for MMOs' features come 2020, most of which I'd say are very likely to be true in some form or another. But there's one that really bothered me, and perhaps it was the way he worded it.
    Combat: Due to advances in technology both from graphics animations and data transfer, MMORPG combat has become more interactive. The old system of autoattack coupled with special attacks on hotkeys is gone. Players now need to watch what the computer controlled monster is doing and react accordingly. Earlier experiments to have this interactivity be based on split-second twitchy reactions have failed, as only a small audience of male teenagers were able to master that sort of gameplay.
    Now, I'm not saying there's not a significant portion of the console playerbase who are teenage males. I'd be lying to myself to refute that. What I have issue with is that Tobold seems to look down on this style of play as lesser than a more strategic approach.

    I don't know how old the man is, but this portion of his post comes off making him seem like a Walter Mathau of Grumpy Old Men. And as I wrote in a comment over at his blog, I see this prediction as more of a hope due to his preferred playstyle than as an actual educated guess.

    Personally, I think what is more likely, looking at games like Call of Duty 4's online multi-player is that you'll see more and more titles of all genres including MMO-like features. They may not all be persistent worlds, and in fact I think very few persistent world MMOs will have major success over the next 12 years, but rather I see games offering players the ability to level up their characters in online play in many different genres from sports games to FPS to more traditional single-player RPGs with an online component.

    Why? Because it costs a lot of money and a lot of development time and heartache to make the type of world that can compete with WoW as many investors are going to realize over the next few years. Either the development trials and tribulations have to be lessened somehow, or the games will have to shrink in scope. Something will have to give as the bubble bursts in the next 5 or so years.

    And personally, I'd almost rather have this happen. I love MMOs, but it's becoming clear to me that paying for them monthly, having to devote yourself to them solely, and essentially spend all of your free-time with one and only one is something I don't relish. I'd much rather have a few solid massive worlds to play in, and then some venues of smaller scope that wouldn't cost me additional monthly fees to play, and hours upon hours of my time. And before I get lambasted here, it's not that I have anything against the traditional MMO design... just that it's becoming outdated as the genre evolves.

    Where am I going with this? I guess I'm just saying that I want evolution and I eagerly await it, however it may be. Blizzard's beast has launched the MMO into the American mainstream... so let's see where we go from here. I'm betting there will be something for everyone more so than any select few, and that my post and Tobold's will both be rendered moot.

    EDIT: I should have just posted a link to this Next-Gen article, then I wouldn't have needed to write any of the preceding. This thing says it all.